Lessons from My Daughter

My daughter is a Maker. Without question. Some days she feels extra crafty, but every day she has to make something. She’s 8.

We find pop-up shops in our house all the time.

Over the Thanksgiving break, she decided to make gifts for every one of her classmates. She attends a traditional Montessori, so the 25 or so kids in her class are pretty evenly divided between first, second and third grade. Before she began producing the gifts, she created what was essentially a hand-drawn spreadsheet with all the kids’ names, the type of gift she was going to make (earrings for the girls unless they are non-girly girls, felt magnets for the boys and anyone not getting earrings), and any necessary additional details, i.e. color, pierced or clip-on, etc. And then she made them. All of them. She wields a hot-glue gun like an expert. I was not required for any production steps, although I do get consulted occasionally for my aesthetic opinion – she most often rejects that opinion, but she asks.

She announced to me that she planned on bringing all the gifts to school on the first day back from Thanksgiving break. I told her I thought that wasn’t the best idea, since we were still weeks away from Winter Break, no one else would be handing out gifts this early, best to wait until closer to Christmas, etc. She grudgingly went along with my verdict. And in the back of mind I was wondering why I cared so much when she took the presents to school. Why was I trying to hold back her generosity?

Then last week, in the midst of getting ready for school, she told me she was taking the presents to school that day. Again, I objected, this time suggesting that instead she ask the teachers that day when would be a good time to bring them and wait until then. This time, she was on to me. “I will ask the teachers first. But I’m bringing them – I’m sure I can give them out after circle.”

“But honey, what if the teachers say that today isn’t a good day?”

“I’ll just save them for tomorrow.”

At this point, I was frustrated and she was frustrated and I shooed her out of the room and off to finish getting ready. I knew at this point that I wasn’t going to stop her from taking the presents to school. And I thought I needed to tell her why I was questioning her. I came into the kitchen and knelt down next to her chair. I muted the television, even though it was a violation of the sanctity of Martha Speaks and looked her in the eyes. “I want to tell you why Mommy was worried about you taking the presents to school today. Mommy was worried that it might not be convenient for the teachers, or that the kids might not understand why you brought presents on a Tuesday, or that you might not get the appreciation you deserve. That’s the way my mind works – I worry about what might go wrong. I’m a cautious person.”

She looked back at me. “I’m a cautious person too, Mom, but I don’t worry about what I don’t want to happen. I think about what I want to happen.”

I want to be more like her.

My Body is A Compass – A Mighty Compass

I keep coming back to Maggie’s talk on the first day of Camp Mighty. She laid out 8 pieces of wisdom that really summed up what the whole weekend was about. Some were reminders of things I too easily forget – that our opinions of ourselves are not fact, that it’s about who you love and who loves you. And some were affirmations of things I’ve already experienced and keep trying to practice in my life – like “my body is a compass.”

I had said almost the same thing the previous evening at the opening party to a new friend and fellow Mighty gal – hey Caroline! Your body never lies to you – it knows what it needs. It knows when it’s tired or hungry or stressed. And it knows when you are trying to convince yourself to do something you don’t want to do. It also knows when you really want to do something but are trying to talk yourself out of it. See the opinion thing mentioned above. That comes from the brain. Not the body.

I started dabbling in yoga off and on post college. It didn’t really stick until the mid-’90s when I found a studio in the suburbs of DC near where I lived. The predominant style taught there was alignment-based, and the students definitely skewed a little older, a little more suburban mom than you might find in a more urban setting. I was approaching 30, not a mom, but I needed a place to feel safe and get out of my very judge-y head. And I don’t know why I had this wisdom at the time, but I gave myself permission beginning in the very first class to not pay attention to anyone else around me and to accept whatever I was able to do. I had lost about 40 pounds in the previous year, so I wasn’t feeling self-conscious about my size, but I wasn’t flexible and I wasn’t strong, and I just really wanted to be in a place where I wasn’t thinking about shoulds and coulds and woulds.

And hey, guess what? It worked. I figured out how to give myself that space. I even, to my utter amazement, ended up teaching at that studio for several years, and several more after moving to New Mexico. And along the way, I became a distance runner, because, you know, the process of training can be very yogic. Listen to your body. Pay attention to your breath. Put one foot in front of the other. And figure out how your body works. When is it truly aligned? When do you have all the support you need? That’s how I ended up teaching Chaturanga on the pool deck at 1 am in Palm Springs – damn I wish there were pictures! This will have to do.

The hard part, once you’ve figured out what your body is telling you, is putting it into action. It’s one thing to take the rest you need if there’s no one expecting you to show up at a meeting or pack a lunch or make cupcakes for class or produce a client deliverable. When exactly does that happen? And then there’s the aforementioned brain talking you out of some deep dream for fulfillment or creative expression, the kind of dream that makes you feel all butterflied in your stomach and rushing in your ears…and your brain is desperately trying to translate that adrenalin into “WARNING! WARNING WILL ROBINSON!”

There’s a difference between fear and anticipation, between not wanting to do something and really really wanting to do something. The trick is learning the difference and trusting your body to steer you right. And making sure that you have the support and the alignment – of intention, of action, of vision – to see it through. Besides, the worst thing that will happen is falling. And you laugh and get up and try it again. Life is a process and falling, and failing, is inevitable. Just do it with style. And learn from it. And listen to your body. It’s a mighty compass.

Making Things Can Take a Really Long Time.

So Camp Mighty was a week ago. And there have already been so many wonderful memories and observations and learnings captured by some of the coolest women I’ve ever met – I can’t wait to read more. Every day over the past week I’ve thought about my experience at Camp Mighty and what I want to say about it. But I’ve been slow to make the transition from brain and journal to blog. With each day that passed, I caught myself slipping back into old and less-than-useful thoughts about creativity, self-discipline and drive. Very un-mighty.

And while Camp Mighty is built around the life list, for me its significance is less about the specific items on the list and more about saying them out loud, sharing them, and discovering not only a community of people who want to help you, but how many ways you can help. It’s about taking yourself seriously.

So here are two of the most important things I am remembering from Camp Mighty:

Our opinions of ourselves are not fact.

Maggie Mason’s talk to open the festivities was full of wisdom, and like Sheri Silver of Donuts, Dresses & Dirt, I felt like she was talking directly to me. To tell the truth, I was really excited to finally be at Camp Mighty but I was also amazed that I’d actually decided to come. By the end of the first day, it was clear to me that I had been telling myself a story about being stuck, about not knowing what I want to do with my life, about not having something to say, about not being able to play on the same field with the true Camp Mighty-ites. These are women whose blogs I’ve been reading, whose photos I’ve admired, whose creativity has inspired me. And here I am sitting in the same room with them.

I got up early on Day 2 and wrote the following in my journal:

“I know a lot more and have a lot more to offer than I have been giving myself credit for. I’m ready to some stuff.”

And when Ben Silbermann of Pinterest took the stage as the keynote speaker and told his story with charm and honesty, there were so many things to take away. The slide that brought tears to my eyes was simply this: 
Making things can take a really long time.
I needed to hear this. I am a process girl by nature, all about checking in and appreciating where I am in the journey. But one of my fears is that I will miss the opportunity, that I will take too long, that family and friends will lose patience with me. You can waste a lot of time worrying about that. Time you just need to invest in making what you have to make. 
Makers Gonna Make – Jude Landry
So I’m going to stop worrying about how long it takes. I’m just going to keep making and sharing and learning and connecting. And I am so grateful to Camp Mighty for expanding my tribe. Up next – how I ended up giving a crash course in Chaturanga Dandasana on the pool deck at 1 am.

The power of clothes – or why Fran Lebowitz always wears the same uniform.

Fran Lebowitz loves fashion, although she pretty much only wears Levi’s and Brooks Brothers button-down shirts. While I would not want to wear the same thing every day, I am very aware of the power and confidence I get from the perfect outfit. What makes a perfect outfit? It fits, both your body and the occasion. There’s nothing to fuss at. Nothing itches. You can focus on more important things. And it says that you know who you are and what you want to be doing.
My daughter, the girliest girl on the planet, wonders why I wear so much black and grey. Aside from the fact that I genuinely like dark tones, it’s because I feel clear and confident in neutral tones. And I like being able to throw on a pop of color when I feel like it. So most days, you will find me in blue jeans, a fitted t-shirt (probably black or white), and some kind of light cardigan. I live in New Mexico, so that helps.
And yet, you will find in my closet a random assortment of other items – odd jackets and colorful big shirts from a past fancy with clothing from Chico’s (no offense meant to the Chico’s-lovers out there!), leftover suits with padded shoulders from long ago office days (hey the 80′s are coming back!), cocktail-y dresses that never quite seem the right choice. I embark upon a closet purge about once a year. And I get rid of things. And yet, these remnants never make it out the door. I don’t know what I’m keeping them for.
My dream is not to have more – it’s to have a closet that never fails me. I want to slide open the door and know that anything I choose will look great and will fit – my body, the occasion, my purpose.